If you’re a community worker that works with vulnerable clients, we offer advice and resources to support you.
Read more about the following topics. We also run regular events and training for community workers.
- Representing your client
- Affordability progams
- EAPA vouchers
- Family violence
- Contracts and marketing
- Hot water systems and billing
- Contacts for supplier affordability programs
- Working with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders
You will need to get verbal or written authority from your client in order to discuss their account with the retailer or EWON. In most cases your client can give this permission by phone or by filling out an authority to act form.
Making a complaint to EWON on behalf of your client
You should try to sort out your client's problem with the supplier before you contact us. If you are unable to resolve the issue you can lodge a complaint with us, at which point you also need to submit an EWON Authority to Act Form. Please note this is separate from the Authority to Act Form that you will need to complete when dealing with suppliers.
Dealing with suppliers on behalf of your client
A new standard Authority to Act form is now available for use by community workers where verbal authority with a client's energy or water supplier has not been possible:
Sensitive information should only be provided with your client’s consent (eg if they are having difficulty paying their bill due to serious illness or unemployment).
Energy companies must offer customers who are scheduled for disconnection the option to enter a payment plan as an alternative to being disconnected.
Your client cannot be disconnected:
- on a Friday, a weekend, a public holiday or the day before a public holiday, or before 8am or after 3pm any other day
- if they have an appointment to be assessed for EAPA vouchers
- if someone in their house runs a life support machine and this is noted on their account
- if the supplier has not provided them (in writing) with the option of entering into a payment plan
- if the debt is for less than $300, so long as the customer has agreed with the retailer to pay that amount.
In addition, for customers in financial hardship, retailers must offer two payment plans in the twelve month period before disconnecting supply.
If your client is facing disconnection or having trouble getting reconnected:
- contact the company to discuss a payment plan
- ask the retailer about their affordability program
- check that your client is receiving the appropriate rebates, eg the Low Income Household Rebate
- help your client locate EAPA (the retailer cannot disconnect your client if they are waiting for an appointment for EAPA assessment)
- refer your client to a financial counsellor to help work out an affordable payment plan.
Disconnection: what can EWON do?
We can check that the retailer has followed the disconnection rules and request a hold on an impending disconnection while your client locates assistance (such as EAPA) or a realistic payment plan is negotiated. If your client has been disconnected, we can try to negotiate reconnection based on an agreed payment plan.
My client has missed payments: can they be disconnected?
If your client enters a payment arrangement then misses a payment, they risk being disconnected or facing debt collection action. It is important for them to contact and notify the company if they can’t make a payment or keep to their payment plan.
Energy companies are required to provide an assistance program to help customers in financial difficulty. These programs are sometimes called hardship programs and can:
- protect your client from disconnection
- offer tailored payment plans based on your client’s capacity to pay and energy usage
- review your client’s account
- provide energy saving information and audits.
Share houses: who is responsible for the bills?
If your client’s name is on the account they may be liable for any amount owing, not just what they believe is their share. A person cannot be held responsible for an account in someone else’s name. However, if the account holder moves out your client can be held responsible for energy usage from the date the account holder moved out.
Your client has left the property: can they be billed?
If your client was the account holder they can continue to be billed if they did not close their account before they left the property. However, they are only liable for consumption up until it can be shown that another person moved into the property.
We have developed a position statement on how we deal with family violence when it is revealed through our casework.
If the company has made an error and undercharged your client or not sent them a bill, they can only issue a backbill for a maximum of 9 months. The company must also give your client an equivalent time to pay if requested. For example, if they are backbilled for six months usage, your client is entitled to six months to repay the debt. This extension is not automatically provided by a supplier, but the extension must be provided if requested by the customer.
Some customers have experienced difficulties managing their accounts after they have signed an energy contract. We have received complaints about limited methods of payment, delayed billing and problems with transfers.
We have also received complaints about misleading marketing and pressure tactics by marketers. If your client is experiencing problems with their contract, they should contact the company in the first instance. If they are not satisfied with the company’s response, they can contact us to make a complaint.
Some tenants have complained about receiving high bills because of a faulty hot water service. While we are able to investigate the accuracy of high bills, we have no jurisdiction in disputes between landlords and tenants.
If your client has a dispute with their landlord over a high bill resulting from a faulty hot water service, they will need to contact NSW Fair Trading on 133 220 or a Tenants Advice and Advocacy Service .
Your client should continue to make payments towards their account or set up a payment plan with the company. If they cannot negotiate a realistic payment plan with the company, they can contact us.
If your client disputes a bill or account they should contact the company to discuss the problem. If they are not satisfied with the outcome or the company’s response, they can call us.
Some disputes may take time to resolve. Your client should continue to make some payments towards their account or set up a payment plan with the retailer until the matter is resolved. If they can't negotiate an affordable payment plan, contact us.
The NSW Government maintains a list of Energy Retailer Hardship contacts. It's provided confidentially to EAPA Providers by the NSW Government to help in their EAPA assessments.